Inserts

Dir: John Byrum, 1975. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Jessica Harper, Bob Hoskins, Stephen Davies, Veronica Cartwright.

Set in Depression-era Hollywood, Inserts follows the lives of a has-been film director and his entourage of “degenerates” that helps him lead a career directing pornography. The movie might bring to mind a stage play as it is set in a single day, in one room, and follows the actions of the cast in real time. What made the story interesting was realizing that the glamorous and privileged approach to blockbuster films in the late '20s was also used with smut. The performances and heavy dialogue also allow you to mentally compare the fickle and sleazy attitudes in the filmmaking industry of yesteryear with those of today.

Richard Dreyfuss plays The Boy Wonder, a young director known for his achievements in silent film who discovered that he couldn't direct talkies. He's hit rock bottom, just like the rest of America during the Depression, and refuses to leave his Hollywood Hills home. He's dealing with a looming anxiety about not only being a failure but what will happen to his home when the city wants to build a freeway through the land. When a fellow called Big Mac (Bob Hoskins) offered him a contract to direct porn, he took it, not knowing that having such a brutish producer might be the end of him for good. Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) is his star in the picture, and a real handful. Sparing no time, she dives into a frenzy of antics and gossip before settling into her heroin fix. Her co-star is the young and naive Rex the Wonder Dog (Stephen Davies), who laps up praise from others so quickly that you'd think he was a bit dense. The three try to pick up from where they last left off filming and are disturbed by a knock on the door. Harlene's daily gossip comprised of telling the director that the then unknown Clark Gable thought he was a genius and wanted him to direct again. She gave him his address, and now he's come to talk. The Boy Wonder wants nothing to do with that world and sends Rex to shoo him away. They pick up again and grow close to finishing when Mac makes an entrance with his fiance Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper), who is mesmerized by their activities. Mac's presence causes tension because he's paying for the picture and providing Harlene's drugs. Once the actors are paid and high, The Boy Wonder finds it nearly impossible to continue working. As Mac bullies everyone and makes them uncomfortable, Harlene exits the room to shoot up and the others talk of developments in both the film world and America's future.

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Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Apr 7, 2011 4:02pm

Stardust Memories

Dir: Woody Allen, 1980. Starring: Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper, Marie-Christine Barrault. Comedy.

Stardust MemoriesWoody Allen’s most controversial film was hated by fans upon its release for its narcissism and disregard towards his loyalists, but time has made Stardust Memories a much more entertaining film than it was considered in 1980. It blatantly references Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, in both plot (a respected filmmaker trying to clear his mind while dealing with fans and women) and its look (shot in beautiful black and white photography which, like Feliini, includes grotesque close-ups of all manner of odd looking people). Woody actually comes off as one of the beautiful people compared to the faces on the extras. Though Stardust Memories is funny, it’s also deeply depressing. Woody plays Sandy Bates, maybe his most confident character, and though always surrounded by admirers, he may also be his loneliest.

Like Allen himself, Sandy is a beloved maker of comedies who longs to get more philosophical and serious in his work. While attending a film retrospective weekend of his work, he is bombarded by sycophant fans; every couple of minutes someone seems to be asking for his autograph or his attention for their cause or script idea or just heaping praise on him. Time jumps back and forth from the beachfront festival to his New York apartment, while past and present relationships are examined. He’s haunted by memories of his ex, Dorrie (the icy Charlotte Rampling), an insecure and possibly insane actress, and his current French girlfriend, Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault from Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s), who maybe he loves, but isn’t in love with. Meanwhile he strikes-up a friendship with an Annie Hall esque sincere violinist (Jessica Harper of Suspiria, who also app...

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Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Dec 27, 2011 3:21pm
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